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Review | The Intimate Resistance, Josep Maria Esquirol (trs. Douglas Suttle) | Fum d’Estampa Press

A profound reflection on the human condition, Intimate Resistance is a welcome alternative to those glib bestselling books by counsellors and guides who synthesize complicated intellectual, scientific and spiritual ideas for instant, easy consumption. Living in the present moment is, perhaps, one of the most overused concepts expounded by the advocates of Mindfulness with the likes of Deepak Chopra (a student of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation), Eckhart Tolle and the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh a.k.a. Osho, leading the way.

Society has found itself distanced from Sartrean interpretation and so plays with the idea of finding one’s own personal path to happiness – often only understood as achievement: in other words, success.” (page 13)

Josep Maria Esquirol’s study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence, is underpinned by sound academic argument entwined with the concepts of many the world’s most important and influential philosophers and thinkers – including Arendt, Patočka, Melville, Bachelard, Sartre, Husserl, Heidegger, Levinas, Pascal, Voltaire, Camus, Deleuze, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Freud and others – as he develops his own theories, all the while wearing his learning lightly. Intimate Resistance is a lyrical, lucid, poetic read of imaginative explorations and etymological musings conjuring visual vistas.

The meal enjoys a particularly rich symbolic significance

Esquirol’s treatise opens with a cosy domestic vision of diners sharing a meal around the table in a warm kitchen that is steamy with the deliciousness of home-cooked food. The importance of eating together and sharing has myriad health benefits in our hyper-connected world: turn off the TV and the computer, switch off your iphone or Android, slow down and relish the here and now. “Sitting around the table our fellow diners both create and are community”. Home is not only a refuge from the outside world, but from “ice-cold metaphysical chill”.

His very own “philosophy of proximity” is of a different order to nihilism. “In a universe of unimaginable dimensions, the home is a little corner representing the centre of the world,” and the “everydayness” of life is “the movement of existence” which runs in counterpoint to nothingness; the abyss. His layered analysis of the importance of home in today’s over-stimulated hectic world resonates and is to be re-read and savoured.

Our Finite Nature

Esquirol’s discourse hinges around a series of key moments, one of which takes in the essentialness of conversation; of communication. He examines Rilke’s Duino Elegies, the cycle of poems inspired by the poet’s encounter with an angel when walking around the castle of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis in 1912. Essentially humans are put on earth in order to experience the beauty of ordinary things.

Care of the self – “returning to the primordial” – without becoming a kind of narcissus – is the crux of the matter. Analysis of The Self and Oneself, and experience, transform your existence and understanding (or not, at which point suffocation sets in). Seclusion – as opposed to isolation – and discovering the beauty of solitude, nourishes our interior dialogue, as we learn great chunks of truth about ourselves.

“Medicine cures the body and philosophy the spirit”

Our aloneness is a kind of container within which discernment can develop. His analysis of freedom and of limitations . . . of resistance and of strength . . . and his take on spirituality . . . . offer an antidote to the frenzy of our digital age. Of Camus’ novel, The Plague, he writes, “The epidemic – a metaphor in part for war and concentration camps – is an extreme occurrence that pushes the characters to the limit.”

As Esquirol puzzles over the nature of the world around us, and embarks on his cultural peregrinations, his engagement with the reader is intimate in and of itself. The narrative is structured in a series of headed entries like signposts as he poetically creates and shapes thought . . . grapples with being and time and our inevitable decay and death . . .  and invents a new philosophical vocabulary . . . a handy new term being: “Cosmicity is a concept the meaning of which brings together with nuances, that which is indicated through the terms harmony, balance, justice and orderliness.” Intimate Resistance is a straightforward read; to be grounded in academic discipline is not necessary. A great deal of information is packed into this feat of translation which is a remarkable achievement. 

The author’s take on “semi-experts” and the dangers of just having a little learning with which to fill the void (and bolster the forces of cultural pessimism) brings home the importance of why it matters for us all to manage to balance our aloneness and inter-connectedness. Escape into entertainment and unnecessary complexity are best avoided. He invites curious minds to ponder and reassess all manner of things while standing back from the white noise of life.

His quote, on page106, taken from Blaise Pascal’s Les Pensées – written over three hundred and fifty years ago – beautifully illustrates the ambiguities that are still with us today:   

The world is a good judge of things, for it is in natural ignorance, which is man’s true state. The sciences have two extremes which meet. The first is the pure natural ignorance in which all men find themselves at birth. The other extreme is that reached by great intellects, who, having run through all that men can know, find they know nothing, and come back again to that same ignorance from which they set out; but this is a learned ignorance which is conscious of itself. Those between the two, who have departed from natural ignorance and not been able to reach the other, have some smattering of this vain knowledge and pretend to be wise. These trouble the world and are bad judges of everything. The people and the wise constitute the world; these despise it, and are despised. They judge badly of everything, and the world judges rightly of them.

BUY The Intimate Resistance from bookshop.org

The Intimate Resistance, Josep Maria Esquirol (Author) Douglas Suttle (Translator) FUM D’ESTAMPA PRESS | 15 November 2021 | £10 HB ISBN 9781913744083 

The online launch via ZOOM can be viewed HERE  

As the ideal companion volume, we recommend: Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon (Translation/Transnation) by Barbara Cassin, Emily Apter, Jacques Lezra, Michael Wood

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georgia DC

Bilingual editor, rewriter, French-to-English translator. Has written for 3am magazine, words without borders, The Independent, The Lady, Banipal, Prospect Magazine, Times Literary Supplement. Currently writes for The BookBlast Diary. Founder (1997) of London-based writing agency BookBlast.

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